Vienna, 30 January 2001
IPI KEEPS RUSSIA, SRI LANKA AND VENEZUELA ON "IPI WATCH LIST" REMOVES PERU
At the Board Meeting of the International Press Institute (IPI), held in New Delhi, India, on 26 January, the Executive Board Members unanimously agreed to keep Russia, Sri Lanka and Venezuela on the "IPI Watch List" and remove Peru.
Regarding Russia, the Board agreed that a number of incidents have occurred which have reinforced the view that instead of improving, the climate for the press in Russia is still deteriorating. Examples of this include several measures undertaken by the authorities against Media-Most in general and the media company’s independent TV station NTV in particular. Moreover, authorities have carried out arbitrary raids against several other media outlets. This is especially true with regard to the regional media which continue to face intimidation from local politicians; newspapers have been closed before elections and editions confiscated. Journalists working in Russia have also been physically attacked and killed.
In Sri Lanka, authorities continue to curtail reporting by various means. For example, in early December the Sri Lanka Court of Appeal decided to dismiss the appeal of editor Sinha Ratnatunga against criminal defamation charges. In 1997, Ratnatunga was fined and given a prison sentence, suspended for seven years, for defaming the president. Journalists have also been subject to physical attacks.
Relations between Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez's government and the largely pro-opposition press have not improved. Venezuela's journalists complain about Chávez's hostile attitude towards the media and his frequent verbal attacks on the press. While Article 59 of the new constitution, which stipulates that reporting must be "timely, truthful, and impartial," has not been used yet to restrict the press, there are growing fears that it could lead to censorship at any moment.
In addition, at the meeting it was decided that Peru should be removed from the “IPI Watch List”. Examples of progress since President Albert Fujimori left office include the return to Peru of Baruch Ivcher who was stripped of his citizenship and TV station, Frecuencia Latina, during the previous administration in retribution for the station’s critical reports on alleged government corruption and political persecution. Furthermore, forty-five journalists who had been wrongly detained under Fujimori's rule have now been released. The cases of another five journalists serving sentences ranging from 12 to 20 years imprisonment are now reportedly under review by the new Ministry of Justice's National Human Rights Council. In some cases, people who testified against the journalists later retracted their testimony. There were also allegations of torture and forced confessions.
Devised by IPI, the "IPI Watch List" is a mechanism to detect and document regressive tendencies in countries that appear to be moving towards suppressing or restricting press freedom. The main objective of the "IPI Watch List" is to focus global media attention on the offending country and bring pressure to bear on the government in order to reverse the trend towards repression. Each country’s status will be evaluated twice yearly by the Executive Board.
Developments in the above-mentioned countries will be closely monitored by the IPI secretariat and the Executive Board will decide, at its next meeting, if there is a need to keep these countries on the "IPI Watch List".
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